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Rachel Corrie relatives sue Israel over her death

Parents and sister of Rachel Corrie outside court
The Corrie family want a fuller account of Rachel's death

A court case brought by the family of Rachel Corrie, a US protester killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003, has begun in Israel.

The civil action against the Israeli defence ministry will decide whether damages should be paid for her death in Gaza at the age of 23.

Ms Corrie and other activists had been trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes.

Her family has maintained that a full investigation was never carried out.

Ms Corrie's writings - published posthumously - and a play about her life made her a symbol of the international campaign on behalf of Palestinians.

About 20 protesters held signs in her memory outside the court in Haifa, where her family are suing for more than $300,000 (£200,000) in damages.

"I think that as the truth comes out about Rachel, the truth will not wound Israel, the truth is the start of making us heal. So I'm glad to have this day and the start of finding the truth," said the dead protester's father, Craig Corrie, outside the court.

Driver 'unaware'

The Israeli army concluded in an investigation in 2003 that its forces were not to blame for Ms Corrie's death.

It said that on the day she died, bulldozers had been flattening ground in the Rafah refugee camp in an attempt to stop suicide bombers reaching Jewish targets. Ms Corrie, it went on, was hidden behind an earthwork and the military bulldozer driver was not aware she was there.

Rachel Corrie
The play based on Rachel Corrie's diaries toured the world

The Israeli military added that the activists should not have been in a closed military zone.

Activists present at the time have said she was clearly visible and was looking directly into the cabin of the bulldozer.

Ms Corrie's family says the order to use bulldozers should never have been given while non-combatants - the peace activists - were in the area.

Mr Corrie told the BBC he believes that the driver of the bulldozer received new orders just before his daughter was killed "something to the effect of not letting the internationals [peace activists] stop them".

He said: "Five minutes later, Rachel was killed. So with that order apparently something changed and Rachel didn't know the change."

Ms Corrie's mother, Cindy, described her daughter as a compassionate person who "opened people's eyes" to the situation in Gaza.

Diaries kept during her time in the Palestinian territories were later turned into a play - My Name is Rachel Corrie - which has toured all over the world, including the West Bank and Israel.



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